UNL recognizes future teachers with new ceremony

April 8, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

Marilyn Moore speaks to future teachers
Marilyn Moore, a lifelong educator, spoke to students about the impact their teaching can have. (Photo by Fatima Naqi/Nebraska Public Media News)

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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln celebrated students accepted into teacher education programs on Friday. The recognition comes at the halfway point of their degrees.

Nick Pace, acting dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences at UNL, said the ceremonies are a way to remind education students about the importance of the career they are choosing.

“Every president, astronaut, senator, venture capitalist, tech engineer, attorney, parent, daycare operator — all of those folks had a teacher in their life who was transformational in some way,” he said.

Over 50 students were recognized, and each one received a pin.

Jonathan Perez is a sophomore studying secondary education and math with plans to be a math teacher. He went to the ceremony with his parents, who he said were excited for their son to be honored.

Marilyn Moore poses with Jonathan Perez
Jonathan Perez was one of 50 students recognized for admittance into their teacher education programs. (Photo by Fatima Naqi/Nebraska Public Media News)

Perez said he decided to become a teacher because he would always try to teach his siblings about the math concepts he was learning, even if it was a higher level than they could grasp. His love for math started because of one teacher who put character into the subject.

“I had one teacher where he put all of his personality into math, and I really liked that,” Perez said. “That’s how I came to love math, so I want to be that person to make people be like ‘Oh, I can’t wait to go to math class because my teacher is there, and he’s fun.’”

For Perez, teaching means more than the numbers and lessons. He said he didn’t see a lot of Hispanic educators like himself growing up.

“My only Spanish speaking teacher was in a Spanish class,” Perez said. “So like, me going into it, it's just a way to tell these kids that, ‘Hey, you can be whatever you want to be.’”

Marilyn Moore, the alumni master for CEHS and an educator, said it’s important for teachers to connect with their students in various ways, like how they best learn.

“Students describe it like this: ‘I know my teacher likes me because she knows how I learn,’” Moore said. “‘I know my teacher likes me, because he really wants me to learn. I know my teacher likes me because when I can't understand something, she has 10 more ways to help me learn it. I know my teacher likes me because he doesn't give up when I don't learn it the first time.’”

Moore said finding those simple ways to connect can leave an impact on a child’s life for years. She shared a story about a friend of hers who taught kindergarten. When her friend died, many former students went to her celebration of life. One student who couldn’t make it sent a letter, detailing how a project he had done in her kindergarten class had started a love for platypuses. All those years later, he wasn’t able to make the celebration of life because he was conducting research on platypuses.

“You don’t know, you just don’t know as a teacher what that moment of awe is,” Moore said.

The ceremonies were the first of their kind at the university. Pace said he hopes this will be the start of a new tradition for the college, especially with the need to honor teachers amid a shortage across the state.

“Nebraska needs teachers. We want teachers. We want to honor teachers,” Pace said. “We want to honor their work and thank them for having the heart and the hands for this work. It’s never been more important and it’s never probably been more difficult.”